MIRROR: Mr. Reuter, you wrote a book about waiting and sketched yourself in it as someone who likes to wait, for example when traveling. So are you having a good time right now, in the corona crisis?
Timo Reuter: That would be true if I had chosen the wait myself. But the officially ordered exit restrictions, the ban on meetings and travel change the nature of waiting massively: it gets a more existential component. This also changes the quality of the anticipation that I normally appreciate. I had to cancel a trip to Hamburg last week. I definitely want to catch up, but at the moment I don’t even know when it will be.
MIRROR: Nobody knows when the Corona mandatory break will be over. Is it above all the uncertainty that makes it so difficult for many people to wait for so-called normality?
Reuter: She will definitely contribute to this. The problem is, however, that we cannot shorten this wait on our own. Most of us live with a kind of planning fetish. We believe that we have everything under control and can always decide for ourselves what we consume, when and how. Now we are experiencing the opposite. Others are now writing the plans for us. We now have to wait for much more than we would like.
MIRROR: You describe the subject of waiting in your book from different angles. What perspective on the “time of not yet” could help us now?
Reuter: If we look at our control madness, then waiting is something like the insult of modern man. And Covid-19 is a massive insult to our ego, almost an affront. But you can also try to see the good sides. Waiting is also a condition that strives for its own abolition. Whoever waits hewait something.
MIRROR: Why is it important to live with beautiful perspectives, for example to think about summer vacation in France in gray January? Or imagine a barbecue party with friends in times of social distancing?
Reuter: What we are waiting for gains in value if we wait a long time. And anticipation lasts much longer than the joy of fulfillment, which fades away faster. If we are happy, then we will release dopamine, a diverse messenger substance that serves, among other things, for motivation. How big the dopamine kick is is again a question of getting used to.
MIRROR: They mean, does it wear out when we go on lots of exciting trips or eat out in fancy restaurants all the time? So does abstinence imposed on us have any good?
Reuter: Yes. I understand the situation as a postponement of needs. Of course, we miss life as we knew it from before the corona crisis. But more than an expectation that this will happen again, it is probably a longing.
MIRROR: Honestly, shouldn’t we all loosen up a bit – according to the motto: wait and see and drink tea – and after the pandemic everyone back to the start?
Reuter: That would certainly be good. But one should not forget that many people now have existential fears and not everyone is spending the corona crisis in a privileged socio-economic situation. There is domestic violence, homeless people, families in tiny apartments and small business owners who are very afraid of bankruptcy. But apart from such serious problems, there are of course people who could use the corona crisis for themselves. It is worthwhile to consciously make the wait for the time after the lockdown.
MIRROR: What do you mean by that?
Reuter: With all understanding of the concerns, we could try to lose sight of the goal for a moment, not to think about the time after Corona, but to surrender to the situation.
MIRROR: How does it work?
Reuter: Everyone has things that he somehow never creates. Personally, I have been planning to meditate regularly for a long time.
MIRROR: Working parents now have less time than ever: Closed schools and daycare centers make everyday home office work a challenge for them. What do you advise?
Reuter: To save time, I think let-it-be lists are practical, the opposite of to-do lists: don’t tidy up today or check your emails several times a day. But we are just getting enough announcements about what to leave. So you’d better make a list of anticipation! All the dreams for after the pandemic belong on it. What that could be is of course very individual.
MIRROR: In your book you write that waiting is a forgotten art. What did we lose?
Reuter: The ability to be amazed. In the 19th century, people who wanted to travel by train went to the train station hours before departure and marveled at the hustle and bustle on the tracks. They didn’t wait for it to finally start, but spent this time sensibly. You have given yourself to waiting. Very few people can do that in our society today.
MIRROR: The British are said to be good at arranging queues. Are we Germans more waiting world champions or waiting idiots? After all, we spend an average of 70 hours in traffic jams a year, as you write.
Reuter: Yes, but this total waiting time in road traffic is divided into many short waiting times – and after each one you sit comfortably on the couch after work. I don’t know how well prepared we are to mentally weather the corona crisis. Hegel stated more than 200 years ago: Impatience demands the impossible – namely achieving the goal without the means. So maybe we should be patient.
MIRROR: What do you mean by that?
Reuter: Patience is the ability to be able to wait – and to do so without getting a red face. Perhaps the lockdown will be more bearable if we don’t rush now and don’t want to accelerate the passage of time. We cannot pull the future into the here and now.